New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an ambitious set of clean energy goals yesterday that he framed as a “Green New Deal” for the state.
The agenda’s slew of ramped-up targets, investments and planning initiatives touched on everything from renewable power and energy storage to building emissions and environmental protection, adding to the state’s claim to be the East Coast’s leader on climate action.
“Think about it in terms of a progressive governor putting a marker down, especially someone who seems motivated by competition for the leadership position,” said Karl Rábago, executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center.
The plan follows Cuomo’s announcement last month that the state would undergo a 100 percent transition to renewable sources of electricity by 2040 – the nation’s fastest timeline – and raised the interim target from 50 percent to 70 percent by 2030.
To get there, the proposal called for a “globally unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy,” including doubling the deployment of distributed solar to the equivalent of 1 million homes and more than tripling the size of future offshore wind procurements. The latter would convert New York into the biggest engine of the Atlantic Coast industry.
Starting immediately, the state’s planning on climate action is to be piloted by a Climate Action Council made up of state officials, clean energy experts, and environmental justice and workforce groups who would put together a road map for carbon neutrality.
The council will also make recommendations on regulation and emissions policies, and link with the U.S. Climate Alliance to explore the possibility of a multistate, economywide emissions program modeled after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon trading system in the Northeast.
Released in tandem with Cuomo’s State of the State speech and 2019 budget, the plan won praise from renewable advocates.
Nancy Sopko, director of offshore wind policy and siting at the American Wind Energy Association, said the governor had “redefined offshore wind ambition nationwide.”
Sean Garren, senior director for the Northeast at Vote Solar, said the group was “thrilled” by the announcement, which included $1.5 billion worth of awards for large-scale solar, wind and energy storage projects located upstate.
All that new renewable capacity will be underpinned by an energy storage target of 3,000 megawatts, as recently approved by utility regulators.
Clean tech research, meanwhile, will get a boost from a State University of New York-led consortium and a $15 million innovation agenda for technologies that capture carbon and either store it or turn it into feedstock. There also is $3 billion for clean transportation, including funds for electric vehicles and EV chargers, that would be set aside from a new $10 billion Green Future Fund.
Environmentalists were also pleased with the announcement, although community and environmental justice advocates gave more qualified praise. The 150-member coalition NY Renews said in a release that it welcomed the agenda’s aggressive goals, stating that it was “heartening to see progress toward a fossil-free New York.”
But it pointed to the incorporation of community-level groups as an indispensable part of a fair energy transition and said a climate bill set to be reintroduced in the state Legislature would do more to prioritize investment for communities of color and workers.
Environmental justice and labor-friendly provisions were threaded into at least some of the governor’s proposals and investments, such as in the establishment of an offshore wind workforce training center and an expanded community solar program for low-income New Yorkers.
One of the beneficiaries of Cuomo’s plans, the offshore wind industry, could prove especially important down the road if the state finds itself at a loss for places to locate onshore resources close, said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.
The agenda included $200 million in port infrastructure investments aimed at encouraging a local supply chain for turbine components and staging – a prized corner of the industry for many Northeast states that want their workforces to benefit instead of neighboring states.
“We want offshore wind in New York for climate change reasons, but we also want it for job reasons,” said Reynolds.
Over the shorter term, the new 9,000-MW procurement goal for offshore wind will depend on federal officials, who will need to establish new wind energy areas in addition to those currently being considered for auction.
A spokesperson at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority said the state’s coordination with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) over the years had positioned it to execute the 9,000-MW goal.
“Despite the U.S. federal shutdown, which is delaying current BOEM activities, the priority that BOEM has placed on leasing activities, both in scale and expediency, is indicative of the continued progress we expect in the coming months and years,” said the spokesperson.
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